Report from the International Permafrost Association: Tenth International Conference on Permafrost (TICOP) in Salekhard
I. May, Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
INTRODUCTION AND KEY CONFERENCE FOCUS
The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost (TICOP) was held from 25–29 June 2012 in Salekhard, in the Yamal-Nenets region in Russia. Over 500 participants from more than 25 countries attended the conference to exchange their latest findings in permafrost research and engineering. The title of the conference was Resources and Risks of Permafrost in a Changing World and, indeed, the focus of many presentations was on the impact of global change on perennially frozen ground with a growing interest on how thawing permafrost may affect global change.
Many fruitful discussions and meetings took place besides the daily conference programme and helped to foster existing collaborations, as well as to create new joint projects. Thanks to the generous support of the Government of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, 150 young permafrost researchers from many countries were able to join the meeting, give presentations and co-chair sessions. In addition, a special pre-conference workshop with academic presentations and career advice by senior researchers was organised by the Permafrost Young Researchers’ Network (PYRN).
The conference opening plenary began with welcoming words and speeches from invited representatives of the local government and Russian academics. The Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, Dmitry Kobylkin, was the first to speak, followed by Sergey Kharyuchi, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Yamal-Nenets region. On behalf of the permafrost community, Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten, President of the International Permafrost Association (IPA), and Vladimir Novoselov from the Tyumen State Oil and Gas University gave short overviews about the state of permafrost research and their expectations for the coming week. Vladimir Melnikov and Aleksander Aseev, academicians from the Russian Academy of Sciences, underlined and confirmed these assessments in their talks. Further speeches were given by Anton Vasilyev (Senior Arctic Official of the Russian Federation to the Arctic Council), Vacheslav Gaizer (Head of the Komi Republic), Björn D. Fagerberg (Councillor of the Embassy of Sweden in the Russian Federation), Philip Nobel (Head of the Nobel dynasty, Head of the International Nobel Foundation) and Aleksander Mazharov (Deputy Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District). In addition, the Head of the Resources Economics Center expressed his interest in the upcoming conference, as well as Nikolay Melnikov, Rector of the Kolsky National Centre, and Vladimir Dubrovin from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
An important part of the opening ceremony was the IPA Award for Lifetime Achievement which was presented in absentia to Professor Nikolai N. Romanovskii for his outstanding work and contribution to permafrost research. Frederick E. Nelson, Chair of the IPA Nominations and Awards Committee, read the citation and a video of the awardee offering his thanks was shown to the audience in the auditorium.
Each day of the main conference started with two plenary talks, which through the week covered the most important aspects of permafrost research and engineering. The Tuesday keynotes were ‘The terrestrial permafrost carbon budget’ (Guido Grosse, USA) and ‘Recent engineering advances in permafrost regions’ (Victor Razbegin, Russia). On Wednesday, Mikhail Grigoriev (USA) discussed ‘Coastal and subsea permafrost in transition’ and Andrew Slater (USA) presented a lecture on ‘Permafrost and global climate models’. On Thursday, Bernd Etzelmüller (Norway) and Ko van Huissteden (The Netherlands) started the day with their respective presentations ‘Recent advances in mountain permafrost research’ and ‘Thermokarst changes and ecological shifts related to permafrost’. The last plenaries on Friday were given by Hanne Christiansen (Norway) about the ‘State of permafrost – results of the GTN-P (Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost) network’ and by Gonçalo Vieira (Portugal) about ‘Permafrost in the Antarctic’. The plenary presentations were all of exceptionally high quality and set the tone for the rest of the conference.
The main part of the conference consisted of 15 different sessions with more than 250 oral presentations and almost 200 posters. The sessions are listed here:
- Session 1: Engineering opportunities and issues in permafrost regions
- Session 2: Permafrost and periglacial geomorphology
- Session 3: Permafrost micromorphology and cryostratigraphy
- Session 4: Permafrost and hydrological processes
- Session 5: Carbon and nutrient cycles in permafrost soils and gas hydrates
- Session 6: Observing permafrost: from local monitoring to remote sensing
- Session 7: Permafrost and climate: modelling and field perspectives
- Session 8: Permafrost and the past
- Session 9: Active-layer dynamics
- Session 10: Coastal and subsea permafrost dynamics
- Session 11: Geophysical tools and exploration of permafrost
- Session 12: Permafrost and society
- Session 13: Permafrost microbiology
- Session 14: Spatial distribution and mapping of permafrost
- Session 15: Environmental and ecological issues in permafrost areas
Session 1, Engineering opportunities and issues in permafrost regions, was the largest, with presentations throughout the week and 41 poster contributions.
The venues for the talks were spread through a number of buildings in Salekhard within walking distance of each other. All the facilities were very modern with good screens, projectors and computer facilities. During the plenary lectures, as well as in all sessions and during the paper discussions, simultaneous translation was provided from Russian to English and vice versa. This made it possible for all attendees to follow the discussions and to participate in them.
Poster sessions were held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in dedicated time slots at the College Complex. These were important contributors to the conference and engendered vigorous discussion.
Great efforts were made to publish conference proceedings for all participants and needs. Ken Hinkel made an exceptional contribution in this respect as Editor of International Contributions, as did the 17 Associate Editors. In Russia, editing was carried out by Academician Vladimir Melnikov with co-editors Dmitry Drozdov and Vladimir Romanovsky. A total of five volumes were produced. Volume 1 comprises all international contributions in English (Hinkel, 2012a, 2012b), while volume 2 consists of translations of Russian contributions into English (Melnikov et al., 2012). Volume 3 contains Russian contributions (Melnikov et al., 2012). Volumes 4-1 and 4-2 include all extended abstracts in English including translated versions of Russian abstracts, while volume 5 contains Russian extended abstracts that were submitted in Russian. All five volumes can be downloaded free of charge at http://www.ticop2012.org/important_info/.
Holding a permafrost conference on the Arctic Circle, in a city where the inhabitants are continually confronted with problems relating to frozen ground, permits the infrastructure and ecological challenges to be demonstrated directly. Five different local field trips were offered to the conference participants on Thursday afternoon, including an examination of foundation engineering within Salekhard, a visit to a core storage facility, an examination of Yamal natural resources, a trip to the Romantic Glacier in the Ural Mountains and an excursion to explain permafrost soils.
Six post-conference field trips took the attendees to many different, interesting places in the region. One field trip went to the Novy Port Permafrost Tunnel, a unique underground storage facility in frozen ground with a total area of more than 100 m2, organised by Konstantin Nikitin. Three expeditions went to the Yamal Peninsula, led by Yuriy Novopoltsev, Marina Leibman and Anna Kurchatova to the Yuribey River Railway Bridge, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo Railway and the Marre-Sale polar station, respectively, covering the different environments as well as geotechnical challenges in this region. The highlights of these trips included underground ice, the geocryological station Vaskiny Dachi, an ethnic tour to a Nenets community, as well as a visit to the oldest meteorological station in the Russian Arctic. In addition, one trip to the polar Urals in the Gorno-Khodattinsky National Park was offered by Yuriy Zhdanov, where the different types of tundra, glaciological geomorphology and chromite mining in permafrost could be viewed. Finally, a post-conference international field school for 35 young scientists from six countries was organised by Vladimir Sheinkman, Valery Grebenets and Dmitry Streletskiy.
The conference included a range of cultural and social events, covering the traditional customs of the indigenous people, the typical food of the region, as well as contemporary versions of the local music and art scene. One highlight was the visit to a Nenets community, where the inhabitants presented their traditional rituals, showed their day-to-day clothes and served some of their country food, such as pieces of frozen fish and caribou stew.
During the opening ceremony on Sunday evening, local musicians, singers and dancers delivered an excellent show and surprised the audience with the variety and quality of the performances. Monday evening at an ice-skating rink ended with a splendid dinner provided by the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.
On the following day, there was a big gathering on the banks of the Ob River to celebrate the ‘first fish celebration’. Beside an abundance of delicious, very fresh fish meals, the Nenets people demonstrated their traditional dances and music. It was also possible to be creative by trying to make some of the typical handcrafts.
Another evening highlight was the boat tour on the Ob River held on Wednesday and Thursday. On both evenings, the tour took place under sunny skies that remained blue until very late at night. Participants were able to chat and network while partaking of a buffet and beverages.
CONFERENCE RESOLUTIONS AND THE CLOSING CEREMONY
The IPA Council approved a preamble and resolutions which set the stage for the organisation over the next four years. These were presented at the closing ceremony by Professor Hanne Christiansen (Vice-President IPA):
- Considering the growing recognition of the significance of permafrost to the global climate system;
- Considering the significance of permafrost in the understanding of Earth surface processes;
- Considering the risk to human societies of progressive permafrost thaw resulting in greenhouse gas release to the atmosphere;
- Considering the impact of permafrost on those who live or work in polar and high mountain areas;
- Considering the need to adapt engineering infrastructure in permafrost regions to a changing climate;
- Recognising that solutions to scientific questions and engineering challenges associated with permafrost increasingly require interdisciplinary teams and international collaboration;
- Reaffirming the importance of involving members of the PYRN in all of its activities.
It is resolved that over the next four years, through its collaborations with other organisations and its own Action Groups, Interest Groups and Standing Committees, as well as the PYRN and the GTN-P, the IPA will:
- Encourage and assist the climate modelling community in improving the representation of perennially frozen ground in global climate models;
- Promote the study of the carbon cycle and other biogeochemical cycles in permafrost regions that contribute to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations;
- Develop new innovative and accurate maps of permafrost for use by multiple audiences;
- Encourage permafrost studies in regions where little is known regarding its occurrence, its degradation and the resulting dynamics and hazards;
- Develop education and outreach products and projects on permafrost for schools, universities and the general public.
In addition, specific TICOP resolutions were provided and read by Academician Vladimir Melnikov in Russian.
During the closing ceremony, young permafrost researchers received awards for their outstanding oral or poster presentation at the conference. A jury of more than ten senior scientists was in charge of the judging, evaluation and ranking of more than 150 contributions. The entire process was led by Anne Morgenstern from the Alfred-Wegener Institute, supported by Inga May (IPA) as well as by Ken Hinkel (University of Cincinnati) and Fritz Nelson (Chair of the IPA Awards and Nominations Committee).
The winners in the category of oral presentations were:
- Anna Liljedahl (University of Alaska Fairbanks) who received the 2012 IPA Troy L. Péwé Award for her outstanding international oral science presentation entitled ‘Ice-wedge polygon type controls low-gradient watershed-scale hydrology’.
- Julie Lepage (Department of Civil Engineering at Laval University, Canada) was awarded the 2012 IPA Pavel I. Melnikov Award for her outstanding international oral engineering presentation about ‘Thermal performance of the permafrost protection techniques at Beaver Creek Experimental Road Site, Yukon, Canada’.
- Aleksander Pastukhov (Institute of Biology, Komi Science Center, Syktyvkar) received the PYRN Award for his outstanding national oral science presentation entitled ‘The spatial distribution of SOC in the forest tundra of the European North-East’.
- Maria Cherbunina (Faculty of Geology, Lomonossow Moscow State University) who received the PYRN Award for her outstanding national oral engineering presentation entitled ‘Method of choosing the optimal location for the oil pipeline route using engineering-geocryological cost maps’.
The winners in the category of poster presentations were:
- Corina Doerfer (Geographical Institute at the University of Tubingen, Germany) who received the PYRN-PPP (Permafrost and Periglacial Processes) Award for her outstanding science poster presentation about ‘SOC pools and stocks in permafrost-affected soils on the Tibetan Plateau’.
- Samuel Weber (Geography Department at the University of Zurich, Switzerland) who received the PYRN-IPA Award for his outstanding engineering poster presentation entitled ‘Design of a measurement assembly to study in-situ rock damage driven by freezing’.
IPA COUNCIL AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AT THE TICOP
The IPA Council as well as the Executive Committee met twice in association with the conference. The first Executive Committee meeting was held in Moscow on the 22 June, and its focus was on finalising arrangements for the TICOP. The first Council meeting took place on the 24 June, and 18 of the 26 adhering bodies were represented. The main topics were the business raised by the President and the Executive Director. They gave a broad overview about recent activities, collaborations with other institutions, upcoming tasks, as well as the IPA's budget. Also the different associated members, organisations and the IPA Action Groups and Standing Committees informed the Council about their work. During the meeting, the new Executive Committee was elected, which will govern the IPA for the next four years, and the new Executive Director was approved. Hanne Christiansen (Norway), Hugues Lantuit (Germany), Vladimir Romanovsky (USA), Lothar Schrott (Austria) and Ma Wei (China) were elected as Executive Committee members. The new President of the IPA, Antoni Lewkowicz (Canada), was automatically selected in 2010 when he was named Senior Vice-President at the Longyearbyen conference. Inga May will replace Hugues Lantuit as the Executive Director of the IPA.
Between the first and the second Council meetings, the new Executive Committee gathered to discuss the resolutions of the conference and the most important steps for the coming four years. Hanne Christiansen and Vladimir Romanovsky were named Vice-Presidents, and a clause in the 2010 IPA Constitution regarding representation was used to add Dmitry Sergeev (Russia) to the Executive Committee.
The outcomes of this meeting were presented at the second Council meeting which was held on 28 June. The most important agenda item was the vote for the location of the 11th International Conference on Permafrost in 2016. Lanzhou, China and Potsdam, Germany had submitted proposals and their national representatives had already presented their visions for the conference at the first meeting. The weighted vote was won by Germany with 35 votes out of 45. During this meeting, the conference resolutions were also defined, and Évora in Portugal was chosen as the location for the next Council meeting in 2014.
The detailed minutes are published on the IPA website and can be found at http://ipa.arcticportal.org/publications/reports-and-minutes.html
CONFERENCE LOGISTICS AND A FINAL WORD
Feedback regarding the conference was positive and most participants were pleased to have attended. The logistics were certainly very challenging, involving among other things five charter flights from Moscow and Tyumen to bring the 500+ participants, organisers and facilitators to Salekhard. Because there was not a single big conference centre, but several smaller places where the scientific sessions took place, shuttle buses moving between the different locations and the hotels were required. Although the conditions for a smooth-running conference course were rather complicated, almost everything ran without problems and the conference was definitely a success for the permafrost community. Its lasting contribution will be in the contacts made and the proceedings volumes.
The IPA acknowledges the following persons and institutions for their kind support and organisation of the conference:
- The Government of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, especially the Governor, Dmitry Kobaklkin, and the Deputy Governor, Aleksander Mazharov.
- All sponsors and partners, especially Rosneft, Gazprombank, Transneft, BP, TnkBP and Arctic Foundations Ink.
- Local organisers, Irina Voronova and Aleksey Titovsky.
- The Oil and Gas University in Tyumen and especially its Rector, Vladimir Novoselov.
- Members of the Earth Cryosphere Institute and its Director, Academician Vladimir Melnikov.
- The USPA for its help with the proceedings, especially Professor Ken Hinkel.
- All persons involved in the organisation of field trips and post-conference excursions.